Saturday 30 March 2024

Time Shifters: The Eccentric Rituals of Little England's Clock Circle

Here in Little England, twice a year in preparation for the overnight clock change, the ancient ironstone circle has to be moved to reflect the loss or gain of an hour. 

Luckily these days it’s a little easier with cranes and other such fangled machines of the modern age. However, a little manual manoeuvring is still required to adjust for the minutes, the big machines taking care of the hour change. 

I rather wish that ‘Pickaxe’ Eddie wouldn’t use his pickaxe on the ancient stones, for I’m sure since he’s been involved twice a year, there are more stones than there used to be. I’m also sure some of the stones have changed shape too. 

Each time a stone is relocated, Double Denim Dando does a little shimmy, you can see him doing one right now. And of course Waving Wayne is here to coordinate things, though to be honest he’s been waving ever since he arrived on site, so he’s mostly ignored by everyone apart from nearby dog walkers who think he’s being friendly.


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Friday 29 March 2024

Pigeon Fiddlers & Piccalilli Fanatics

These are the men who work on the track, all lining up in acknowledgement of the passing goods. From left to right we have Cyril Flagshaft, on days off he’s a pigeon fiddler, enthusiast and Piccalilli fanatic. 

Next we have Edwin Jones, originally from Caerphilly, he creates miniature tea clippers from matchsticks with sails from cut up pillow cases. He sails them on the local pond where they capsize and sink in finest Mary Rose style. 

Next we have Albert Clenchworm, he’s been digging a deep hole on his allotment for decades, no one know quite why, but he keeps muttering about Australia after too much brown ale. 

Then we have Doug, we all know Doug, the 1954 gravedigger champion from Plymouth. And finally we have Harry Hi-viz, he loves everything orange. His favourite meal is a big bowl of tinned Alphabetti-Spaghetti washed down with a pint of Lucazade.

Thursday 28 March 2024

The Tipsy Tale of Moorewood Colliery

For decades, Moorewood Colliery was a cover up for an illicit moonshine operation. The pretend mine was used as storage for casks of the illegal liquor. Potatoes used in the mash were dyed or painted black to look like coal. A huge still lived inside the winding house. 

What looks like a winding cable was actually a hollow hose, it allowed freshly distilled liquor to be pumped directly to the underground storage facility. 

Exit from the mine was on the level via a drift mine entrance in the back of The Pedant & Armchair pub 5 miles away.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

East Meets West

A sunny morning at Combwich. A rare view showing an ex Great Eastern Railway J15 being tested on the Combwich line. With the Eastern Region of British Railways being the first region to almost totally eliminate steam, they having a surplus of engines. 

The Western Region of BR, who’d recently taken over the former SDJR system, were keen to find replacements for the mostly ancient ex Midland Railway locomotives. Though this loco being of a similar age, the light axle loading of the J15 made them ideal for a line mostly laid across a bog. They were also briefly used on the Watlington branch in Oxfordshire around the same time. 

Sadly, the trial only lasted a few weeks and little photographic evidence exists, this being a rare 6x6 cm colour transparency recently found in a long lost archive at the back of Beryl’s knicker drawer which was thought to be lost in the mists of time. 

Though often history makes little sense, as no doubt future generations will look back at the present time with all its associated nonsense which mostly revolves around business opportunities absorbed by a gullible proletariat. As has always been the case of course. 


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Saturday 23 March 2024

Lockdown Lovers

To commemorate 4 whole years of the ‘lockdown’ here in Little England, masked crusaders and Zombie Apocalypse of Doom work-shy lockdown-lovers Sharon & Tracy love to relive those halcyon plague days when they used to fight over toilet paper and Camembert cheese. They both have really bad teeth and a wasp chewer’s pout, so they welcome any excuse to wear a mask again made from chopped up dishcloths, old socks and for those more creative with a sewing machine, old underwear. 

Local businessman Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe has seen the business opportunity and decided to put on travelling roadshow on the back of a flatbed truck for our masked crusaders to fight things out, with today’s choice being everyone’s favourite, the humble bog roll. There is is course much betting involved, with many of our regulars coming out to have a flutter for the chance of winning a few sovs. 

Nasal Nigel is in prime position standing on a beer cask to give him an elevated view, for he also has really bad teeth and a fetish for wearing discarded face masks when playing with his TT gauge Flying Scotsman. What I horrible little man, his mother loves him though.


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Friday 22 March 2024

Spence the Spanner

Spence the Spanner has been working all night with his big spanner and pot of grease. There’s nothing he can’t build with this versatile combination. 

And here is is standing back this bright morning to examine his conversion of what was a GWR Collett 2251 into something more ‘continental’ looking. 

Spence has always wanted to go abroad and mix with those continental types, especially with his love for garlic, red wine, smelly cheese and steam engines that look like are inside-out. But alas he doesn’t have a passport due to the fact that he’s struggled use his big spanner and grease pot to fill in the application. Though he has tried many times, albeit unsuccessfully. 

Meanwhile Bob Geeza Cat poses like he always does so well, and offers to fill in Spence’s passport application, for he is such a clever cat. But alas Spence doesn’t understand ’meow’, and Bob can’t speak in ‘Spence’. 


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Wednesday 20 March 2024

Spring Equinox

Happy Spring Equinox, today the day is as long as the night, and the night is as long as the day, confusing I know. And here we have the 6.13 Combwich to Evercreech Junction service ready for departure, which today coincides perfectly with sunrise.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Moorewood Colliery Revisited

A scene on my OO9 (1/76 scale on 9mm track) Moorewood Colliery. It’s fully wired and working, but really needs finishing off and placing in a lit diorama case with backscene and built in photography grade lighting. 

The narrowboat on the left is from one of those inexpensive Craftline balsa wood and paper kits. Not very accurate but an affordable option. Sadly there is very little in the way of accurate narrowboat kits out there apart from elderly Langley white metal kits and to my eyes an overscale in height, but very nice resin kit from Skytrex. 

Track is the usual Peco ‘crazy track’, it’s not that crazy though, it just sits there and doesn’t even make a murmur. The winding house in the distance is scratch built. The pithead is again from Craftline, but I don’t think it’s in their current range. It’s very similar to the one at the Black Country Museum in Dudley. The bigger building is an excellent laser cut from those lovely people at Petite Properties and is available as a full building like here, as well as low relief. 

The loco is from Roxey Mouldings and is based on a prototype that ran in Cyprus. It sits on a Farish 2-6-2 N gauge chassis. It’s a lovely runner with that heavy white metal body. Wagons behind are no longer available resin one offs from several years ago. They’re based on ones that used to run on the China clay tramways on the Isle of Purbeck. And the tipper wagons are Roco, a couple of which date from the 1980s. I believe they’re still current. 

And of course we have Barry Bullhead from ModelU and Hubert the conversational Latin speaking horse from Langley Models. 

I did a rather creepy video a couple of three years ago going in to more detail

Saturday 16 March 2024

Pink Panda

Pink Panda

It’s all happening outside The Miners Arms today. Newly formed railway guard dance trio and occasional Morris men; Dwayne, Dusty and Dillon also known as ‘The Three Dees’, are performing their latest moves which centre around a crate of moonshine, and this morning a point lever. 

Meanwhile it looks like Shrewsbury engine shed’s ‘Webb Coal Tank’ has ‘gone missing’ and turned up here again in the Forest of Dean. And this being The Forest, means there’s no way those in charge at Shrewsbury will be able to track it down. Though to be honest, they’ve been try to get the engine scrapped for years, with it usually disappearing when paperwork is about to be signed for withdrawal. 

And finally, PC Rob Banks is questioning everyone after his not very trusty Ford Anglia police ‘panda car’ was painted pink overnight. Of course, our fav’ Bob Geeza Cat is here to balance the scene which he always does so well, for he is such a clever cat 🐾


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Wednesday 13 March 2024

Using Expired Film

Cad, charmer, business and ladies’ man Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe is taking Dizzy Lizzie for a wander around the docks, because as we know ladies (ask mother if you don’t know what one is) love a wander around a dockyard that’s seen better days with a smarmy pretend posh bloke with a penchant for tweed. 

And in contrast to the semi-derelict landscape, they come across an ex-works Little British Railways Standard Class 2 locomotive which has just finished pottering about with a few wagons from here to there and there to here, as well as movements in between. It’s believed that Hornby based their recent release on this particular locomotive, but of course that might just pure conjecture on my behalf. 

And finally for the photographyholics here, a couple of months ago I was given some expired fridge stored Kodak 400 asa 35mm colour negative film of unknown age (it was unboxed, but the graphics on the canister current). Rather than waste it, out of curiosity I popped it through my Nikon FE at half the box speed to compensate for reduced sensitivity due to its possible age of maybe 10 years out of date. It’s come out okay-ish, given the base fog level is higher than in-date film (another feature of old expired film). 

But in this era of smooth digital capture, we forget how grainy 400 asa film is. But it is what it is, and it certainly creates a vintage look. Using expired film I gather is quite fashionable these days, personally I don’t get it. But at least I’ve been there done that - but I don’t want the T shirt. 


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Tuesday 12 March 2024

Hobby Graveyard

Looking through my back catalogue for todays post, this one popped up from 2007 - 17 years ago, which in digital photography land is almost pre-historic. It’s a scene on Ankle Bend Crossing on my Combwich layout. The rather too shiny tanker I think is a Langley white metal kit, which proves that possibly moonshine transportation activities have been going on in the land of the inch high for far longer than I recall. 

I might even finish it one day, for it sits in the bottom drawer in the railway room. That drawer being called ‘the hobby graveyard’, it being full of wagons and other junk that needs fixing, along with almost finished kits that didn’t really cut the mustard. I should donate the contents to the local club for their exhibition where they always have a table of old tat for sale. Surprisingly most of the tat gets sold, though I imagine most of it ends up in somebody else’s ‘hobby graveyard drawer’ never to be fixed. 

I digress, for most I imagine be more interested in the single car DMU which is a Lima cut-and-shove made up from a twin car unit. I think I did that in the 80s when it’s quite likely the full sized version was still in regular use. It runs like pig, even though the crappy Lima mechanism was swapped out for a Spud or something similar. Still, it looks pretty if nothing else.


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Sunday 10 March 2024

‘Look No Hands’ Technique

The light over Somerset Levels is often quite spectacular and unusually for a Sunday the bus replacement rail service has been replaced with a train. Those familiar will know that in Little England all trains must be replaced with buses at weekends, it being the law since 1883. 

So this is indeed a fabulous and rare sight with a most unusual engine in the form of one of Stanier’s super-sized class 4 tank locomotives on the front of the usual 2 coaches which form the Highbridge branch services. 

Average photographer Ivan Locksmith and local cad, bounder and charmer Terry Tuttle-Thomas-Smythe are over there pointing their cameras at the spectacle as the train plods over the crossing at Catcott. Terry as usual is performing his usual ‘look no hands’ technique, which whilst it might charm the gullible, never yields a photograph because he always misses the shutter release. Don’t ask about his technique, but it impresses Nasal Nigel who is always keen to try out new things to do with his clammy TT gauge Flying Scotsman he keeps in his special pocket. 

Fans of the great railway photographer Ivo Peters will spot the famous blue Bentley, but no, this one is Ivan’s, he being a fan-boy of the great Ivo. Ivan’s Bentley is a bit of a heap to be honest with faded paintwork, plenty of tin-worm and a back seat full with all sorts of strange most likely illegal plants being propagated for his huge greenhouse which rivals those of Wisley and Kew Garden. 


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Friday 8 March 2024

LSWR Steam Extravaganza 150

Fresh out out of the scanner. Over the weekend of 23 and 24 July 1988 to celebrate 150 years on the London & South Western Railway, BR Networkq Southeast ran several steam hauled excursions around the Salisbury area. I recall the lineside and bridges packed with chuffer fans including me. Tap, click, lick or whatever floats your boat for bigger images 

34092 City of Wells, departs Salisbury with the 'Atlantic Coast Express', Saturday 23 July 1988. Rolleicord Vb Kodak T-Max 400. Skew Bridge was so busy, I had to hold the camera over my head and look up in to the viewfinder to achieve this photograph. 

48151 on the 10:15 Salisbury to Yeovil Junction 'Blackmore Vale Express' Barford St Martin, Sunday 24 July 1988. Rolleicord Vb Kodak T-Max 400

Somewhere west of Salisbury during a heavy downpour, 34092 City of Wells is captured, on the return leg of 'The Blackmore Vale Express' (Yeovil Jct to Romsey) in 'Golden Arrow' regalia, Saturday 23 July 1988. Rolleicord Vb Kodak T-Max 400.

Viewed from the end of the platform, 48151 passes East Dean as part of the LSWR 150 Anniversary Specials around the Salisbury area 23 July 1988. Rolleicord Vb, Kodak T-Max 400

Thursday 7 March 2024

Screw in Strap Lugs

Many old cameras don’t have a means of attaching a cameras strap, they being designed to sit in a case when out and about with strap attached to the case. It always worries me that when I’m wandering around with some ancient pride and joy looking out for photo opportunities that I’ll trip and the camera will fly. 

I found on eBay (other online retailers can supply too) that you can get a screw in strap lug (sounds a little kinky I know) that will screw into the 1/4 inch tripod thingamygig for just a couple of sovs. Probably not new to you guys and gals, but I’m so excited I had to let someone else know seeing my wife doesn’t share my enthusiasm. 

The camera is a 1956/7 vintage Zeiss Contina in great working condition picked up for £12 on flea bay. I found the rather fetching red string in the bottom of the ‘stuff’ drawer in the kitchen.


Wednesday 6 March 2024

That’s Your Lot….

That’s your lot…..

Today we take the time machine back 58 years, to the 6th March 1966. And here we are at the end of the road for Somerset & Dorset Joint Railway apart from a few freight only stubs, spurs or whatever you want to call them lasting for just a few more years. 

Many of our favourites have come out to see the very last train, not hauled by anything fancy, just an old Western Region allocated Stanier 8F goods loco without steam heating. But it’s not too cold, and anyway the upholstery in the equally decrepit carriages burns well, so not an issue if a bit of heat is required. 

Goodbye old Somerset & Dorset, in my alternative parallel universe you have provided much fun in the land of the inch high. Farewell and Godspeed in that great fiddle yard in the sky, laters….

Tuesday 5 March 2024

High Speed 1.9

Down on the docks. For years Pete, Dud and Neil have been asking for a passenger service on the light railway system. The day has finally arrived with the delivery of the much hyped train! No expense is spared as we can see! Alas budgets are tight, with management announcing that there might be some minor compromises over the original specification. 

Pete, Dud and Neil check over the 1st class accommodation, in fact there is only one class - how very inclusive. And as a bonus, the management announce that the unusual 6 wheel arrangement will provide an enhanced ride over the rickety old rails. 

The motive power comes in the form of an old tractor, with top speed of 9mph, and in the event of a fuel shortage can be easily adapted to run on moonshine. There is always plenty of moonshine around.